The Mail on Sunday
Warning over ‘fees’
VISITORS to the US are being tricked by a host of unofficial websites into paying unnecessarily for authorisations to travel.
A free ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) security check was introduced in 2009 and international travellers register their details online for authorisation.
But since then dozens of websites have been set up with ‘ ESTA’ domain names, purporting to be official websites and charging for applications.
A Google search for ‘ ESTA’ results in several unofficial websites being listed ahead of the correct one. The address for the correct page is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.
Unofficial websites include esta-uk.org, estavisaapplication.co.uk, enterusavisa.co.uk and estaweb.org.uk.
Philip Pearce-Smith, executive officer for Venturers Search and Rescue, a teenage organisation dedicated to helping people and animals in danger, says he was recently caught out. ‘It is almost impossible to work out which of the sites is genuine and as a result two 14-yearold cadets from our organisation paid £25 each to file an application,’ he says.
A warning on the US Embassy website states: ‘Be aware that registering with ESTA is free and done online. Any website claiming that a fee is required is not an authorised US government agency. Unfortunately, the Embassy has no control over private companies who wish to offer such services for a fee.’